FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Who will step up to PoY challenge?
There will be no repeat winner this year for Journal Star Boys Tennis Player of the Year honors. Last season, the Dunlap duo of Steve Chacko and David Wu became the first doubles winners of the award. But Chacko is not on the team this year, so Wu has a new partner in junior Nolan Teubel. They are playing No. 2 doubles this season, giving Wu an opportunity to repeat in doubles, or try for PoY as a singles player. Top singles challengers for the award this year include Dunlap’s Aanan Kashyap, Metamora senior Michael Poppen, and Notre Dame junior Josh Montefolka.
2. Dunlap looking to continue Mid-Illini Conference streak
Even without Chacko, the Eagles have most of their top players back to try and win their fourth straight M-I title. Besides Wu, top returning players include singles state qualifiers Aanan Kashyap, who won No. 1 singles at the 1A Dunlap Sectional last season, and Arian Rahbar. Senior Jack Disharoon is playing No. 1 doubles this season with Kashyap. "We have a very fluid lineup this year, as many of our guys are strong in singles," Eagles coach Patrick Gornik said. "So we will spend a good amount of our focus on doubles and finding the right partners." The top challenger for Dunlap probably will be Metamora, which also has a deep roster that includes most of its top players back from a 19-1 season.
3. Notre Dame, Richwoods hope to improve in Big 12 Conference
The Irish finished fifth and the Knights sixth in the league tournament last season. The top returnee for Notre Dame is junior Josh Montefolka, who placed third in No. 1 singles in the conference and runner-up in the Dunlap Sectional. Richwoods returns state qualifiers Abe and Sid Saxena.
4. Changing partners
Other doubles players besides Wu also will have to get used to new partners this season. Two-time state qualifier Ethan Greenfield of Metamora is paired up with sophomore Brian Lelm at No. 1 for the Redbirds. Barik Olden of Morton, also a two-time state qualifier, will play with Joe Zern this year.
5. Coaching changes
Two area teams will have new head coaches this season. Former Pekin coach Gary Garver, who took over the Washington girls program this season, also takes over the boys this year for the Panthers. Replacing Garver at Pekin will be Joshua Zinck, who was previously the freshman/sophomore coach for the Dragons.
Returning state qualifiers: Singles — Aanan Kashyap (Dunlap, jr.); Josh Montefolka (Notre Dame, jr.); Arian Rahbar (Dunlap, sr.); Michael Poppen (Metamora, sr.); Brian Lelm (Metamora, soph). Doubles — David Wu (Dunlap, sr.); Ethan Sabotta (sr.)/Jacob Valencic (Washington, sr); Barik Olden (Morton, sr.); Abe Saxena (sr.)/Sid Saxena (Richwoods, sr.); Ethan Greenfield (Metamora, jr.).
TEN PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ethan Greenfield, Metamora junior, looking for third trip to state
Aanan Kashyap, Dunlap junior, No. 1 singles champ at sectional and conference
Brian Lelm, Metamora sophomore, sectional runner-up in No. 1 singles as a freshman
Josh Montefolka, Notre Dame junior, finished third in Big 12 No. 1 singles last season
Barik Olden, Morton senior, two-sport star playing with new doubles partner
Michael Poppen, Metamora senior, Ottawa Sectional No. 1 singles champ
Arian Rahbar, Dunlap senior, two-time state qualifier
Ethan Sabotta, Washington senior, won two doubles matches at state
Jacob Valencic, Washington senior, runner-up in sectional No. 1 doubles
David Wu, Dunlap senior, Journal Star Player of the Year last season